Report: Greg Monroe to opt in for 2017-18 season

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks will retain their prized free agency acquisition from 2015, after the team was notified Wednesday morning that center Greg Monroe would exercise his player option and return for the 2017-18 season. The Vertical  was the first to report the news, which has since been confirmed by several other media outlets.

Monroe signed a three-year, $51.4 million contract with the Bucks in 2015 worth an average of $17.1 million per season. That was a huge payday for an offensive mainstay in Detroit that earned $5.4 million in 2014, his final season with the Pistons.

While not confirmed at the time of publication, Monroe’s motivation for re-upping with the Bucks is likely two-fold: The uncertainty of a very active trade season throughout the NBA; And the balance of potential success with the Bucks paired with a large contract. Monroe’s decision nets him an additional $17.88 million this upcoming season, although his role could change with the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

The consensus among many mock draft analysts is that Milwaukee will select a center in Thursday’s draft, leaving Monroe’s status up in the air. He was relegated to a bench role in 2016, which Monroe learned from reporters during a preseason Media Day session.

NBA G League accidentally leaks Bucks affiliate logo

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks planned on unveiling their new G League affiliate logo on Thursday during a special event paired with the NBA Draft, but that logo appears to have been released prematurely.

https://twitter.com/conradburry/status/877138195120611329?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fbehindthebuckpass.com%2F2017%2F06%2F20%2Fmilwaukee-bucks-wisconsin-herd-logo-reportedly-leaks%2F

The Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s new G League affiliate set to debut in Oshkosh, appears to be taking a page from the professional franchise’s book, using a redesigned version to represent the affiliate team. The authenticity of the logo has not been verified, but after displaying the logo on their website for each NBA team’s affiliate, the image has since been removed.

The G League, formerly known as the NBA D League (Development League), has been renamed due to a sponsorship with Gatorade. The organization has not issued a statement on the leak.

Bucks confirm Horst will be next GM

MILWAUKEE — He may not have been their first choice, but the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t have to look far to find their next general manager.

The team confirmed on Friday evening that Jon Horst would be the next GM, promoting  the 34-year-old from director of player personnel. Horst has been with the Bucks organization since 2008.

It wasn’t exactly a straightforward hire for Milwaukee, who interviewed six candidates on June 5-6 in New York. That field was cut in half and interviewed in Milwaukee the following week. After it appeared the search had come down to Denver Nuggets executive Arturas Karnisovas and interim Bucks GM Justin Zanik, the Nuggets preempted Milwaukee’s next move by promoting him as their general manager.

After Karnisovas withdrew his name from consideration for the Milwaukee job, the feeling around much of the state was that Milwaukee would promote Zanik. That didn’t happen, mainly because of what was perceived to be some disagreement among the ownership group.

“Our No. 1 priority is building a championship-caliber organization and we believe Jon is the right person to be our general manager,” the Bucks’ ownership group said in a statement. “He has been an integral part of basketball operations for the last nine years, and has helped advise us on every major basketball decision since we purchased the team. Jon is very talented, capable, organized and someone we have leaned on for his strategic thinking and ability to execute our vision.”

Horst will be introduced on Monday with a press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. Reports suggest the Bucks plan to add a veteran executive to work alongside Horst during the transition.

Several big decisions are looming over the Bucks organization within the next few weeks. The NBA Draft begins on Thursday, which also happens to be the deadline for center Greg Monroe to exercise his nearly $18 million player option for a third year on his contract. Guard Tony Snell also becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.

Bucks to hold throwback game at UW Milwaukee Panther Arena

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks will celebrate 50 years of the franchise this season by holding one game at the UW | Milwaukee Panther Arena.

That announcement was made on Saturday during the team’s third annual block party in downtown Milwaukee. The arena, once known as the “MECCA,” will play host to a Bucks game this coming season for a date yet to be determined. The Bucks called the arena home during its inaugural season in 1968 until their final year in the building in 1988.

“What can be more fitting to celebrate 50 seasons of the Milwaukee Bucks than returning to the venue that holds so much of the franchise’s history?” Bucks president Peter Feigin said in a statement. “It’s going to be such a unique and special occasion for our current players to take the court at the MECCA and for our fans to experience the early era of the Bucks.”

The “catch” for fans hoping to take part in this special promotion is that tickets for the game will only be available with purchase of a full season ticket plan. The date and opponent will be unveiled at a later date.

Report: Bucks have narrowed down GM candidates to three

MILWAUKEE — Two weeks after general manager John Hammond left the Milwaukee Bucks for the Orlando Magic, his former team has reportedly narrowed its choices down to three for its next GM.

Arturas Karnisovas (Denver Nuggets, Assistant GM), Wes Wilcox (Atlanta Hawks, Ownership Advisor), and Justin Zanik (Milwaukee Bucks, Interim GM) are the finalists, according to The Vertical. The Bucks held interviews in New York City Monday and Tuesday and will invite Karnisovas and Wilcox to Milwaukee later this week.

Team owners Jamie Dinan, Wes Edens, and Marc Lasry will continue to be involved in the hiring process while Zanik takes care of pre-draft responsibilities. Upon his hire last June, Zanik had received the moniker “GM-in-waiting” but team president Peter Feigin told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network at the time that’s not true.

Karnisovas was nearly hired to be the next GM in Brooklyn last season, but took an assistant role in Denver under Tim Connelly. A former NBA player, Karnisovas also won two Olympic medals with the Lithuanian team.

Wilcox took over as GM of the Hawks in 2015, leading Atlanta to 48 and 43-win seasons thanks to his roster management. Since then, he’s taken a more hands-off approach as an advisor.

No timetable has been set for when Milwaukee plans to make a hire, but it figures to come this month, with the NBA Draft set for June 22.

Report: Bucks asking to interview Stefanski, others for GM job

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks have expanded their search for a new general manager, and have reportedly reached out to several teams for interviews, including Memphis Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski.

Stefanski has connections to the Bucks, at one time working alongside special consultant Rod Thorn and coach Jason Kidd while he was still playing for the Nets. Those are both reasons Stefanski is gaining favor in Milwaukee.

Other front office members being considered by Milwaukee include Pacers Vice President Pete Dinwiddie, Nuggets assistant general manager Arturas Karnisovas, and Hawks GM Wes Wilcox, who was reported to be on his way out of Atlanta earlier this month.

Last June, the Bucks hired Justin Zanik as their assistant general manager, with several reports that he’d be the eventual successor to John Hammond. While he’s been given the interim tag for the time being, it appears as though Milwaukee is doing its due diligence with the job search despite no league rule requiring them to do so.

Report: Bucks opening up GM search to external candidates

MILWAUKEE — Despite initially receiving the moniker “GM-in-waiting,” Justin Zanik will have some competition if he wants to become the next general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Zanik was hired away from the Utah Jazz last summer to work alongside John Hammond, who signed a five-year contract to take over as general manager of the Orlando Magic. In an interview with the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network last June, team president Peter Feigin gushed about Zanik as a “terrific hire,” but never committed to Zanik as Hammond’s replacement.

Hammond signed a contract extension two summers ago, taking him through the 2017-18 season. In the June interview, Feigin expected Hammond to eventually be on the same payment schedule as coach Jason Kidd, which would keep him on board through the 2019-2020 season.

“If you ask the owners, the intention would be that we’re making a commitment long-term…to have a plan and get somewhere in these first three to five seasons [under new ownership],” Feigin said. “…So there’s a plan to keep everyone intact.”

ESPN’s report about the Bucks’ GM search includes a detail stating that Milwaukee’s “special consultant,” Rod Thorn, would lead the way in the hiring process. Thorn cut his teeth in the NBA as a former GM of the Bulls and Nets, where he was responsible for trading for Michael Jordan and Jason Kidd, respectively.

Raptors eliminate Bucks despite Antetokounmpo’s 34 points

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks went on a 34-7 run to erase a 25-point deficit, but were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors 92-89.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting, but he made perhaps a critical error that could have provided Milwaukee a better chance to win. Down by three with less than 11 seconds remaining, Antetokounmpo dribbled out the clock at the top of the key, but instead of setting up a three-point shot, he drove in for a dunk with 3.5 seconds left.

DeMar DeRozan drained a pair of free throws on the other end to extend Toronto’s lead back to three points and Milwaukee’s in-bounds pass was intercepted, handing the Bucks their third-straight loss in the series.

Milwaukee was leading the series 2-1 before heading back to the BMO Harris Bradley Center for game four. It’s the first time in Toronto history the Raptors have won three straight games in a playoff series.

Khris Middleton returned from an illness to score 19 points in 42 minutes of action. Matthew Dellavedova was next on the team in scoring with 12 off the bench.

Raptors blow out Bucks in Game 5 to take series lead

TORONTO — All five starters scored in double digits as the Toronto Raptors blew past the Milwaukee Bucks 118-93 in Monday night’s game five of the NBA playoffs.

Norman Powell had a playoff career-high 25 points to lead a Raptors team that shot nearly 58 percent from the field. Serge Ibaka followed with 19 points, six rebounds, and three blocks.

Fighting through an illness, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton only contributed eight points in Milwaukee’s losing effort. Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in a game-high 30 to go with his nine rebounds.

Milwaukee started out sluggish, turning the ball over three times, while Toronto opened up an early lead. That lead grew to 19 late in the first half, but the Bucks were able to close it to six just before intermission. But coming out of the locker room, the Raptors slowly built the lead back up, grabbing 40 of the game’s 63 rebounds.

The series moves back to Milwaukee for a possible series-deciding game six on Thursday, with the Raptors holding a 3-2 series lead.

Bucks steal game 1 in Toronto 97-83

TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks hadn’t won a road playoff game one in 17 tries, but 28 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo helped snap that trend in a 97-83 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Antetokounmpo shot 72 percent from the field in the win, adding eight rebounds and two steals to the stat sheet. Perhaps more importantly, his supporting cast did their part, with five other Bucks players scoring in the double digits. Greg Monroe was particularly effective, logging 14 points and 15 rebounds off the bench.

Toronto scored just 32 points in the second half, struggling to 36 percent shooting overall. The Raptors couldn’t take advantage of 47 total rebounds, turning the ball over 10 times. DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 27 points and eight rebounds.